This morning I spoke with Vaughn McClure, a former colleague who has been one of the Chicago Bears beat writers for the Chicago Tribune for the past six seasons. I wanted to get his impressions on Saturdayís Green Bay-San Francisco game, the Bearsí situation and on Packers fans from a rivalís perspective.
Hereís how the conversation went:
Q: Whatís the mood like in Chicago this week? Is it all about the coaching search or ďLose, Packers, Lose!Ē? People are more concerned about the coaching search. Not too many people care about the playoffs right now. Theyíre wondering if (Chicago General Manager) Phil Emery is interviewing too many candidates right now. There is some thought about Tom Clements, from the rival Green Bay Packers. Is he getting a serious look or would he seriously consider the job?
Q: How do Bears fans feel about the Packersí run of recent success? A lot of fans will tell you thatís why Lovie Smith is no longer the coach; he started to fail against the Packers. When that went down the drain, fans lost faith in Lovie Smith. For fans, getting to the playoffs is important, but just as important is beating the Packers. He didnít get it done the last few years and that changed some perceptions about the team.
Q: Would Lovie Smith have been retained if the Bears had made the playoffs? Of course, because if he would have beaten the Packers even once this year, they would have been in the playoffs. He came in in 2004 and beat them (for his first win). Then he beat them four in a row at Lambeau. If he would have beaten Green Bay this season, that would have helped. But no matter what, people were looking for a change. The only thing that would have changed fans perspective would have been a Super Bowl run. If you want to show you want to be the coach of the future, take us back to Miami and Super Bowl run.
Q: How would it play in Chicago if the next coach says: ďJob No. 1 is beating the Packers.Ē? No. The mantra has to be making the playoffs and competing for the Super Bowl every year. It helped for (Lovie Smith) and motivated the team, but it has to be more than that now.
Q: How do Bears fans view Packers fans? Idiots. Plain and simple. Nothing else has to be said. I was in Green Bay after Bears game this year. I was at one of the sports bars near the stadium and there was a Packers fan and a Bears fan fighting in the middle of the dance floor. That kind of tells you right there. They canít even dance together. Itís a hate-hate relationship. If a Packers fan is wearing Packers stuff in Chicago, people will give him a hard time.
Q: You saw Colin Kaepernick beat the Bears; was it the right move to replace Alex Smith midseason or too risky in the midst of a potentially special season? I look at it as they still have a first-round bye, theyíre favored, they stayed where they needed to be. I donít think you can question Jim Harbaugh, he has changed the culture there. He brought immediate success to that franchise. They havenít really dropped off too much. This team is still a very dangerous team. Now, Colin Kaepernickís job is easier when he has a defense like San Francisco has. Thatís the hardest-hitting defense Iíve seen. Theyíre right where they need to be. That tells me thatís the right decision. One thing this season has shown us, is that guys that can extend plays with their feet Ė RGIII, Russell Wilson, Kaepernick, and Iíd put Aaron Rodgers in there, too Ė can make a big difference.
Q: What do you think is the main factor or matchup that will determine the outcome Saturday? Against the Vikings in Minnesota, I saw a different side of Greg Jennings that I hadnít seen before. Greg Jennings is a dynamic receiver, but I havenít seen him play like I saw against the Vikings. If Greg Jennings goes off, the packers have a chance to win on the road. Aaron Rodgers still needs time to find him. But if Jennings can get open, make plays, make yards after the catch, the Packers can win.
Q: Whatís your prediction? San Francisco 24-21. Both defenses are going to have a chance to make plays. I see San Francisco at home in a tight one Ö unless Aaron Rodgers goes off for 400 yards or something.